Agriculture and Jamaica’s Rural Poor

Jamaica has been called the richest poor nation on earth. Jamaicans take pride in their island’s abundance of fruits and vegetables, and hunger is not an extreme problem. On the other hand, rural farmers remain poor, and scratching out a living that will support a family is hard. Trade liberalization has hurt Jamaica's ability to be a major global supplier for items such as bananas, and at the same time, Jamaica is importing foods easily grown on the island.

Against the backdrop of a global recession, Jamaica’s government is investing in a more self-reliant agricultural economy with programs that promote urban gardening for families, school-run garden projects, and increased banana production for export to the European Union. However, despite the push for local food production, Jamaicans continue to import most of the food they consume, and rural farmers remain poor.

Julia Rendleman is a Pulitzer Center student fellow through Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.

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